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World News

SPOOKS:  Chinese spies acquired NSA hacking tools

The Hill – A leading cybersecurity firm found evidence Chinese intelligence operatives repurposed National Security Agency (NSA) hacking technology in 2016 to attack American allies and private firms in Europe and Asia, according to The New York Times.

Researchers with Symantec believe the Chinese government captured the code from an NSA attack on their own systems rather than stealing it, according to the article. The hacking group that repurposed the tools has committed several attacks on U.S. targets including space, satellite and nuclear propulsion tech manufacturers, according the Times, citing a classified agency memo.

Some of the same tools were also dumped online by an unidentified group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, later used by North Korean and Russian intelligence, according to the Times, although there is no apparent connection between the Chinese acquisition and Shadow Brokers’ activity.

While Symantec is not sure how the Chinese got the code, Chinese intelligence contractors have used the tools to conduct cyber warfare in Belgium, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, the Philippines and Vietnam, according to the Times, with targets ranging from schools and scientific research to the government of a U.S. ally. In one case, an operation against a telecommunications network may have led them to obtain as many as millions of private communications, according to Symantec.

Officials: U.S. carrier group, bombers going to Mideast due to multiple Iran threats

NBC – The decision was based on Iranian threats to U.S. military forces and civilians at multiple locations, according to U.S. officials and a defense official.

The U.S. military’s decision to surge a carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East was based on Iranian threats to U.S. military forces and civilians at multiple locations in the region, according to U.S. officials and a defense official.

Recent intelligence showed Iran and its proxies are repositioning forces and may be planning for attacks, both at land and at sea, the officials said.

The troubling new intelligence caused the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, to request more assets to his area of responsibility. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan approved the request to redirect the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the Persian Gulf and to move a bomber task force to the region.

Shanahan tweeted Monday that he approved the deployment Sunday afternoon, calling it “a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces.” Shanahan called on the Iranians to “cease all provocation,” warning that the United States “will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on U.S. forces or our interests.”

Israel is the first to respond to a cyberattack with immediate force

Engadget – It’s no longer novel for militaries to respond to cyberattacks with physical force (the US used a drone strike in 2015), but now they’re being treated with the same urgency as real-world bullets and missiles. Israel Defense Forces have launched an airstrike on a Gaza Strip building believed to house Hamas digital warfare operatives after the militant group reportedly failed in an attempted “cyber offensive.” Details of the virtual attack weren’t available, but the IDF said it was “ahead of them all the time.”

The Israeli military believed the strike represented a decisive blow, claiming that “Hamas has no cyber operational capabilities” after their building was destroyed.

The airstrike wasn’t completely surprising when Israel has been responding to hundreds of rocket attacks from Gaza militants over the past few days. It’s in the midst of an active conflict and had a strong incentive to prevent further digital campaigns. Still, this raises questions about the value of immediate physical answers to cyberattacks. In less heated circumstances, a rapid real-life strike could be interpreted as an escalation that provokes more violence. As Oxford University’s Dr. Lukasz Olejnik told ZDNet, countries have to weigh multiple factors (such as the severity of an attack and future threats) lest they spark unnecessary conflict.

Syrian government troops launch an offensive against rebels in the country’s northwest

LA Times – Syrian troops stormed rebel-held areas of the country’s northwest on Monday, state media, monitors and activists said, marking the government’s latest bid to reassert control over the opposition’s last major territory.

The ground incursion came in the wake of a fierce weeklong air campaign, with Syrian and Russian warplanes executing dozens of daily strikes on rebel-controlled territories in the northwestern provinces of Hama and Idlib.

The escalation dashed a Russian-Turkish truce brokered in September that had stayed a massive government offensive on Idlib, which is home to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s most implacable rebel adversaries.

Syrian army units, including the elite Tiger forces, charged Monday morning into the northern countryside of Hama province. Hours later, they cut rebel lines to snatch the village of Banah as well as the strategic Othman Hill, before surrounding Kafr Nabouda, according to state-aligned news channels, including the Central Combat Media and Lebanese broadcaster Al-Mayadeen.

The operation, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agen

U.S. News, Politics & Government

Rep. Devin Nunes Sends Letter to FBI, DOJ, CIA and NSA Requesting Info on Mysterious Prof. Mifsud

American Greatness – Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sent letters to the heads of the CIA, NSA, FBI and DOJ late Friday requesting information pertaining to the mysterious Maltese professor who allegedly told Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that the Russians had thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Nunes told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that he wants to “get to the bottom of [Joseph] Mifsud,” whom the Mueller report paints as a Russian spy, (although he is more likely a Western asset).

In his letters, Nunes requested “copies of all the information in your departments’ and agencies’ possession related to Joseph Mifsud, including emails, all relevant reports and records of his contact with any elements of the U.S. government.”

Nunes accused the special counsel of “cherry picking” only information that would be damaging to President Trump and even continuing the FBI’s practice of using circular intelligence reporting, a fraudulent method of confirming intelligence.  In 2016, officials at the Department of Justice and FBI leaked information to the media and after the stories were reported, they used those reports to justify further investigations.

Ukrainian Embassy confirms DNC contractor solicited Trump dirt in 2016

The Hill – The boomerang from the Democratic Party’s failed attempt to connect Donald Trump to Russia’s 2016 election meddling is picking up speed, and its flight path crosses right through Moscow’s pesky neighbor, Ukraine. That is where there is growing evidence a foreign power was asked, and in some cases tried, to help Hillary Clinton.

In its most detailed account yet, the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington says a Democratic National Committee (DNC) insider during the 2016 election solicited dirt on Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and even tried to enlist the country’s president to help.

In written answers to questions, Ambassador Valeriy Chaly’s office says DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa sought information from the Ukrainian government on Paul Manafort’s dealings inside the country in hopes of forcing the issue before Congress.

82 arrested in multistate child exploitation sting

AJC – A months-long child exploitation operation netted 82 arrests across eight southeastern states, including 31 people in Georgia, the GBI announced Friday.

A total of 17 children were also rescued or identified as victims during the four-month sting, which involved 171 law enforcement agencies in metro Atlanta, other parts of Georgia, Alabama, Florida and the Carolinas.

A months-long child exploitation operation netted 82 arrests across eight southeastern states, including 31 people in Georgia, the GBI announced Friday.

A total of 17 children were also rescued or identified as victims during the four-month sting, which involved 171 law enforcement agencies in metro Atlanta, other parts of Georgia, Alabama, Florida and the Carolinas.

Trump Pardons Ex-Army Soldier Convicted of Killing Iraqi Man

Fox – President Trump has pardoned a former Army lieutenant who was convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner suspected of being an Al Qaeda terrorist, the White House announced Monday evening.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders cited “broad support” for Michael Behenna, of Edmond, Okla., “from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public” — including 37 generals and admirals, along with a former Pentagon inspector general — as the reason for Trump’s clemency grant. Sanders also said Behenna had been a “model prisoner” while serving his sentence.

“In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” Sanders concluded.

Detroit’s LED streetlights going dark after few years

Detroit News – The city’s lighting authority fears tens of thousands of streetlights are in jeopardy of failing just a few years after being installed, threatening to put some of Detroit’s neighborhoods back into the dark.

The authority behind the state-of-the-art overhaul of Detroit’s streetlight system filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the manufacturer of nearly a third of the city’s 65,000 streetlights, saying a fix is expected to cost millions.

The Public Lighting Authority in its complaint against Leotek Electronics USA notes that upward of 20,000 LED lights are “prematurely dimming and burning out” and putting the city’s revitalization progress “in jeopardy.”

“Indeed, the PLA expects a system-wide failure of Leotek’s luminaries in the short-term,” the lawsuit reads.

The issue was discovered last fall during routine surveys of the lighting system, and it’s tied to defective units that were either “charred, burned, or cracked,” according to a February letter from the lighting authority’s law firm.

U.S. lawmakers criticize potential Facebook settlement with FTC
Reuters – Two U.S. senators on Monday criticized reported plans for a Federal Trade Commission settlement with Facebook Inc for misuse of consumers’ personal data, saying that top officials, potentially including founder Mark Zuckerberg, must be held personally responsible.

In a letter to the FTC, Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Republican, told the agency that even a $5 billion civil penalty is a “bargain for Facebook.”

The agency is also reportedly contemplating a settlement that elevates oversight of privacy policies and practices to Facebook’s board of directors and requires the social media giant to be more aggressive in policing third-party app developers.

But that was inadequate, said Blumenthal and Hawley, who said the FTC should go further.

“It should consider setting rules of the road on what Facebook can do with consumers’ private information, such as requiring the deletion of tracking data, restricting the collection of certain types of information, curbing advertising practices, and imposing a firewall on sharing private data between different products,” they said in a letter to FTC Chairman Joe Simons.

The FTC has been investigating revelations that Facebook inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The probe has focused on whether the sharing of data and other disputes violated a 2011 agreement with the FTC to safeguard user privacy.

U.S. school urging teachers to bless Muslim students in Arabic

WND – A public school instructing teachers to greet Muslims during Ramadan with “Ramadan Mubarak” and adjust test schedules is raising the specter of official district endorsement of Islam, contends a non-profit legal group.

The Freedom of Conscience Legal Defense Fund is warning the Dieringer School District in Lake Tapps, Washington, about its implementation of guidelines issued by the terror-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations.

After CAIR wrote to the school suggesting various changes in policy and practice that would benefit Muslim students, district Supt. Judy Martinson implemented CAIR’s suggestions as official district policy. She distributed the CAIR letter to school principals, who in turn circulated it to all teachers and staff, FCDF said.

“By urging teachers to bless Muslim students in Arabic, the district is running roughshod over the First Amendment’s mandate of government neutrality toward religion,” said Daniel Piedra, FCDF’s executive director. “A school district would never order teachers to ‘welcome’ Catholic students during Easter with ‘He is risen, alleluia!’ Singling out Muslim students for special treatment is blatantly unconstitutional.”

A parent in the district had raised questions about the move.

In response, FCDF sent a memo to Martinson contending the district is violating the Constitution by favoring Muslim students.

FCC warns about ‘one ring’ robocall scam: Do not call numbers back

Fox – Don’t call back phone numbers that ring once and hang up, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has warned.

People throughout the U.S. have been receiving “One Ring” or “Wangiri” robocalls in bursts, according to officials. The calls are targeting specific area codes “often calling multiple times in the middle of the night.”

“These calls are likely trying to prompt consumers to call the number back, often resulting in per minute toll charges similar to a 900 number,” the agency said in a news release on Friday. “Consumers should not call these numbers back.”

Typically, officials have said this is how the scam unfolds: The robocaller will dial a number before hanging up after one to two rings. They might do this repeatedly, “hoping the consumer calls back and runs up a toll that is largely paid to the scammer.”

Hiya, the app company that helps people identify whether they’re receiving a spam call, also warned of the dangers of picking up the “Wangiri” calls in a news release on Friday.

The company, which claims to analyze more than 13 billion calls per month, stated that the scam started appearing in the U.S. around 2013, and has increased both in the U.S. and other countries, like Ireland, Scotland and Germany, since.

The scam increased 98 percent in Q1, according to Hiya data, which also found that a spike in calls has been linked to Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa.

Economy & Business

China’s top trade negotiator to visit US despite tariffs

AFP – China said Tuesday its top trade negotiator will visit the United States for talks with American counterparts this week even as Washington stepped up pressure with plans to hike tariffs and complaints that Beijing was backtracking on its commitments.

The commerce ministry confirmed in a brief statement that Vice Premier Liu He, President Xi Jinping’s trade pointman, would visit the US on Thursday and Friday.

The trip is taking place a day later than expected after President Donald Trump jolted global markets by announcing that tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese merchandise will more than double to 25 percent on Friday.

“China always believes that mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit are the premise and the basis for reaching an agreement. Adding tariffs will not solve any problem,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

‘Stockpile coins and banknotes’: Sweden tells its citizens to squirrel away hard cash under their beds in case of a cyber attack

Daily Mail – Cashless payments are all the rage but people in Sweden have been told to squirrel away notes and coins in case of a cyber attack on the nation’s banks.

Digital payments offer convenience for both buyers and sellers alike and the Scandinavian nation has been an eager adopter of the technology.

Now, government experts are concerned that people could be left without any money should its computer networks become victim to an attack.

Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency has issued guidance to every household telling residents to stockpile ‘cash in small denominations’ for use in emergencies.

Energy & Environment

War brewing over lithium mining at edge of Death Valley

LA Times – The desolate beauty of the Panamint Valley has long drawn all manner of naturalists, adventurers and social outcasts — including Charles Manson — off-road vehicle riders and top gun fighter pilots who blast overhead in simulated dogfights.

Now this prehistoric lake bed is shaping up to be an unlikely battleground between environmentalists and battery technologists who believe the area might hold the key to a carbon-free future.

Recently, the Australia-based firm Battery Mineral Resources Ltd. asked the federal government for permission to drill four exploratory wells to see if the hot, salty brine beneath the valley floor contains economically viable concentrations of lithium. The soft, silvery-white metal is a key component of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and is crucial to the production of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The drilling request has generated strong opposition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife, who say the drilling project would be an initial step toward the creation of a full-scale lithium mining operation. They say lithium extraction would bring industrial sprawl, large and unsightly drying ponds and threaten a fragile ecosystem that supports Nelson’s bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and the Panamint alligator lizard, among other species.

“A lithium mine would destroy these spectacular panoramas,” drilling opponent Tom Budlong said recently as he and fellow activists buzzed over the Panamint Valley in a chartered Ecoflight aircraft.

The battle could be a fierce one. Lithium is expected to play an increasingly important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, and has been designated by the Trump administration as a mineral essential to the economic and national security of the United States. In addition to powering countless laptops and cellphones, lithium-ion batteries may also play a role in guarding against power line wildfire ignitions.

The only functioning lithium mine in North America is about 150 miles away in Clayton Valley, Nev. Most of the lithium used for batteries now comes from the so-called Lithium Triangle of South America — a region that includes the world’s largest salt flats.

Science & Technology

Here Come AI-Enabled Cameras Meant to Sense Crime Before it Occurs

Defence One – The future of video surveillance is about detecting not just faces, but behaviors.

In 1787, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham came up with an idea for a prison that would cost a fraction of the cost of other contemporary jails to run with virtually no internal crime. His theoretical prison, the panopticon, was curved, the cells facing inward toward a center point where a guard tower would stand. The windows in the guard tower were to be darkened on one side. This way, a single guard would be able to observe the behavior of all the prisoners. But more importantly, the prisoners would never know whether the guard had his or her gaze trained on them. The end result, every individual within the prison internalizes a sense of being watched all the time and behaves accordingly.

This idea of the panopticon has become a stand-in for the threat of ubiquitous surveillance, due mostly to Bentham’s choice of setting — a prison. But Bentham aimed not to frighten people, but to furnish a way to manage a scarce resource: the attention of law enforcement.

A new trend in video surveillance technology is turning Bentham’s panopticon into reality, but not in the way he imagined. Instead of a prison, the new panopticon would focus the attention of law enforcement on a person when her behavior becomes relevant to the guard tower. Imagine it were possible to recognize not the faces of people who had already committed crimes, but the behaviors indicating a crime that was about to occur.

Alexa has been eavesdropping on you this whole time

Ctpost – Would you let a stranger eavesdrop in your home and keep the recordings? For most people, the answer is, “Are you crazy?”

Yet that’s essentially what Amazon has been doing to millions of us with its assistant Alexa in microphone-equipped Echo speakers. And it’s hardly alone: Bugging our homes is Silicon Valley’s next frontier.

Many smart-speaker owners don’t realize it, but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name. Apple’s Siri, and until recently Google’s Assistant, by default also keep recordings to help train their artificial intelligences.

For as much as we fret about snooping apps on our computers and phones, our homes are where the rubber really hits the road for privacy. It’s easy to rationalize away concerns by thinking a single smart speaker or appliance couldn’t know enough to matter. But across the increasingly connected home, there’s a brazen data grab going on, and there are few regulations, watchdogs or common-sense practices to keep it in check.

Genetic Editing Goes Rogue

Mercola – Emerging research suggests gene editing may not be as precise as once thought and may lead to significant off-target mutations, with completely unknown consequences.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have revealed that CRISPR base editors, which are intended to target a single DNA base, induce widespread off-target effects in RNA.

Tens of thousands of base changes were revealed as a result of CRISPR-Cas base editor technology; the widespread RNA changes led to mutations in protein-coding and noncoding sequences.

The benefits of gene editing, such as potentially providing a cure for various blood disorders, lung disease.

Health

Norwegian Health Minister: Let People Smoke, Drink, Eat Red Meat

Sputnik – Norway’s newly appointed Health Minister Sylvi Listhaug, no stranger to controversy, has once again stirred the public by claiming that she wants to avoid becoming the “moral police” and instead intends to let fellow Norwegians indulge in bad habits as they please.

Progress Party figurehead and newly-minted Health Minister Sylvi Listhaug has shocked her compatriots with an unorthodox stance on nutrition, alcohol, and tobacco.

“I believe people should be allowed to smoke, drink and eat as much red meat they just want. The authorities may like to inform, but people already know pretty well what is healthy and what isn’t, I believe”, Listhaug told national broadcaster NRK.

“My starting point for the job is very simple. I don’t plan to be a moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives. Instead, I intend to help people get information that forms the basis for making choices”, she explained.

Listhaug, who this weekend was also elected first vice-chair of the right-wing Progress Party, a paramount sidekick for the Conservative-led government, said she was increasingly sympathetic toward a particular group in society — smokers.

“I believe many smokers feel they have become pariahs. They feel they almost need to hide away, and I believe that’s stupid”, 41-year-old Listhaug, herself a social smoker, said. “Although smoking isn’t good, because it is harmful, adults have the right to decide for themselves what they do”.

Meanwhile, Listhaug’s rather unorthodox stance has triggered a lot of criticism.

Severe Health Risks of 5G Have Been Covered Up

  1. Edward Griffin – The greatest health hazards of cellphone use are related to the effects on bio chemistry, immune-system response, and DNA replication in humans. Nevertheless, current safety guidelines for the massive roll out of 5G are based on a 1996 study of the extent to which a cell phone heated the head of plastic mannequin. The public has never before been exposed to the ultra-high electromagnetic frequencies as are used in 5G technology. Over 2,000 international studies show that this type of radiation causes cancer, DNA damage, reduces fertility, and damages neurons in the brain and throughout the body.

Monsanto Argues Roundup Cancer Victim Should Receive Less Money Because of Imminent Death

Mercola – August 10, 2018, a jury ruled in favor of plaintiff Dewayne Johnson in a truly historic case against Monsanto. Jurors found Monsanto was responsible for “negligent failure” by not warning consumers about the carcinogenicity of Roundup.

The jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson, $33 million of which was for noneconomic pain and suffering. In October, the judge upheld the guilty verdict but reduced the total award to $78 million.

Bayer/Monsanto appealed. In its appellate brief, the company asks for reversal of the damages awarded based on the fact that Johnson is near death.

Recent research shows glyphosate has multi-generational effects. Pregnant rats exposed to half of the no-observed-adverse-effect-level of glyphosate established by the European Food Safety Authority between the eighth and 14th day of gestation had offspring with higher rates of birth defects, obesity, and diseases of the kidneys, prostate, testes, ovaries and mammary glands (breasts).

Third generation males had a 30% higher rate of prostate disease than the controls, while third generation females had a 40% higher rate of kidney disease. Cancer increased in second-generation rats but not in the first and third generations

A selenium/myo-inositol combination can naturally heal Hashimoto’s disease

Health News – Hashimoto’s disease is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism in the U.S., affecting at least one out of 20 people. A recent study, however, showed that the combination of selenium and myoinositol can work wonders with people who have this autoimmune condition. The study, which appeared in the journal European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, looked into how this duo can be used to restore normal thyroid function in people with Hashimoto’s disease.

For the study, the researchers recruited 168 patients with Hashimoto’s disease and assigned them into two groups: One group received an oral supplement of myoinositol and selenium, while the other group received selenium alone.

The participants who took myoinositol-selenium supplements exhibited lower levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPOAb) and anti-thyroglobulin (TgAb). TSH, TPOAb and TgAb are biomarkers for autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease. The reduction in their levels improved the production of thyroid hormones in the participants. In addition, the participants also reported better quality of life after supplementation.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that myoinositol and selenium supplementation can restore normal thyroid function in people with Hashimoto’s disease.

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